Boss Brown Women
Become the Catalyst for Change with Monica Agrawal of KornFerry
February 25, 2020
Today’s interviewee is at the helm of driving change when it comes to diversity and representation at the top levels: Monica Agrawal, Head, Financial Services & Co-Head Board Services at Korn Ferry. Her journey to finding her dream career has been over 20 years in the making, and along the way, she made several crucial, fearless choices that got her there. Never one to fear or resist change, she’s worn many hats in her professional journey: consumer banker, insurance professional, and finally, search and recruiting. Now that she’s in a position to influence change from the top, she’s utilizing her platform to ensure wholistic leadership is at the helm of India’s largest companies. Listen on to hear about her journey, and what she thinks are key characteristics of a good leader.
- In a time where having a career and a home for a woman was unfathomable, Monica boldly carved out both for herself.
Monica’s number one rule in life: Be absolutely focused and take ownership of your own decisions
On how she achieves a work-life balance: Ruthless prioritisation- you can’t do everything, and you can’t be everything to everyone, so why even try? Outline a few key things that matter most to you in life, and never compromise on those, always make them priorities.
- Finding a supportive ecosystem is essential. Without having people who can help you in your journey (especially as a woman professional), life will become incredibly hard. Find your tribe.
- Always be open to opportunities: learn what you want to do, but also what you don’t want to do. Through Unilever, Monica got exposure to finance, HR, sales, marketing etc., and that helped her figure out that what she wanted to do was sales. Even though her education was entirely focused on finance, through her stint at Unilever, Monica found that her heart lay with consumer-facing roles.
On finding her way to recruiting at Korn Ferry: Monica was fascinated by Search for the impact it could make; she knew she eventually wanted to be a part of this industry.
- She’s been on both sides of the table: working in the financial sector, and recruiting for it. This gives her a keen understanding of the roles she recruits for, something that gives her an edge among her competitors; clients like the fact that she knows the technical jargon, not just the job description--the business and the practical perspective.
Qualities that set good CEOs apart: 1. Agility: knowing what to do when you don’t know what to do. 2. Affection for people: a heavily underrated soft skill in Monica’s opinion. Unless leaders genuinely care about the people they’re leading, they won’t be able to deliver. Personal touch + strategy= true leadership.
- Diversity & Representation at the top: Companies are making representation priority, and it’s their job to find them the best candidates to fill those roles. Monica notices that at the entry level, there exists a diver pool of candidates (in term of gender representation). Maximum drop-off for women happens after their first child-- that’s where she feels organisations should be far more supportive. Facilities like daycare, sufficient maternity leave, are all ways in which this drop-off can be curbed to ensure for diversity at the CXO levels.
On preventing burnout: Focus on fitness. Having so many things on your plate, Monica urges people to still make time for fitness. Fitness for her is not just physical health, it’s also mental health. Again, it’s all about prioritisation for her.